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Mayor Bowser Expands Program to Curb Illegal Tobacco Sales to Minors, Including Vaping Products

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser directed the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) to expand its Curb Illegal Tobacco Sales to Minors program to include electronic cigarettes and vaping products. The program conducts random, unannounced inspections of retail outlets to ensure that the merchants are not selling tobacco products to individuals under the age of 21. The expanded effort will remind the District’s more than 800 licensed tobacco retailers that e-cigarettes and vaping products are considered tobacco products and cannot be sold to individuals under 21.

“We know that underage vaping and e-cigarette use is on the rise and is having harmful health impacts on our youngest residents,” said Mayor Bowser. “It is critical that we hold retailers accountable and ensure these products stay out of our children’s hands.”

These annual inspections are part of the District’s compliance with the federal Synar Program that requires states to enact laws and enforcement programs prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to minors. In addition to its enforcement efforts, the Department of Behavioral Health sponsors a tobacco merchant education program to inform the District’s tobacco retailers of the District’s laws on what qualifies as a tobacco product and the legal age to purchase such products.

“We know that tobacco causes premature deaths. Through our education and inspections, merchants know it’s illegal to sell tobacco products to minors. We are making merchants aware that the law now prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and the law will be enforced,” said Dr. Barbara J. Bazron, Director of the Department of Behavioral Health.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating the cause of over 800 possible cases of lung illnesses associated with the use of e-cigarette products in 46 states and one U.S. territory. Though no cases have occurred in the District, until the cause is determined, the District of Columbia Department of Health has advised residents to stop using e-cigarettes and vaping products.